Today is our last day in Australia. This has been an amazing trip. Good times with family and friends and good times reflecting on my life, vocation and future focus. Wonderful times drinking in scenery I have not seen since I was a child. In the midst I have found myself thinking a lot about God’s view of each of us. This is so important I realize because how we think God sees us effects the ways we look at others.
I was converted as a teenager into a conservative church whose sole concern was “Are you saved?” Believing that Jesus saved us from our sins was our sole focus.
My encounters with those outside the church focused on their brokenness and need for redemption. Ironically this view rarely encouraged me to really find out about the deep concerns and pains that my friends and colleagues grappled with. As long as they believed in Jesus who they were and what they cared about did not seem to matter.
Today I have fewer questions for my friends about their salvation and need for redemption and more about who they are and what their hopes and fears for the future are. From my perspective some are further from God today then they were forty years ago, Yet I have learned to trust that God is at work in their lives even though I don’t always recognize what God is doing.
One of the important lessons I have learned in the last few years is that we are all made in the image of God. Yes that image is distorted by our brokenness but it is still there. We glimpse it when strangers reach out as neighbours travelling across the globe to help others whose livelihoods are destroyed by earthquakes and famines. We see in when firefighters put their lives at risk to save those trapped in burning buildings. We see it when people’s hearts ache for the abandoned, the oppressed and the diseased even when from our perspective they are far from the saving grace of Christ.
As I thought about this today I could not help but think of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus answers:
You know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’ And the young tells him ‘“I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
The account in Mark’s gospel then adds a line I must confess I have not really noticed before.
Looking at the young man Jesus had genuine love for him. (Mark 10:17-31)
Jesus love for this man was not based on the man’s response to his message. In fact as we read further in the story it looks as though the man does not follow Jesus because of his wealth. But Jesus loves him anyway. Perhaps it is because of the sincerity of his heart. Perhaps because as he looks at this man Jesus sees the image of God shining through. We do not really know what sparks Jesus loving response. All I know today is that I too want to learn to love others as Jesus did. As my friends reach out and help others in need yet seem to have turned away from the God of their salvation I admire and affirm what they do. As they grapple with the loss of loved ones and the struggles of life seeking to help children and friends, I am proud of them. As they work to come to terms with the struggles of their lives I want to be there for them, not condemning them because they don’t believe as I do.
My question has become – “Where do I see the image of God in this person and what can I do to encourage, nurture and grow that image?”